“Hilarity with Heraldry” (2)

Last time, I was talking about “The Tiger Album of Football Club Badges” and I made the point that, back in 1961, lots of football clubs turned straight to the local town’s arms for their own badge. Here’s Aldershot, their nickname is “The Shots”. They’re not that bad, though:

Here’s Barnsley and Birmingham City which both refer back to their industrial heritage:

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There are lots of animals used. Glamorgan Rugby play like dragons and Leicester Rugby Club are actually called “Leicester Tigers”.

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In football, Newcastle United  are close to the sea which is probably full of seahorses at that point and Rotherham United must have had lots of deer in the area at one time:

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Lions are always popular as ‘supporters’, in heraldic terms really, rather than sitting behind the goal, roaring on their team. Here’s Halifax Town and Plymouth Albion rugby club. Funny how both pairs of lions have learned to dance:

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Some don’t fit into any category. Perhaps Fulham have the waters of the nearby River Thames on the shield:

Wolverhampton Wanderers supporters obviously have their cross to bear:

Other badges are derived from their local town’s coat of arms but in a less elaborate way. Luton Town, Pontypridd Rugby Club, Torquay by the sea and Tranmere Rovers:

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Grimsby is by the sea and the team are nicknamed “the Mariners” and Falkirk supporters look very fierce indeed:

Most interesting are the old Manchester City and Manchester United badges:

Despite their century or more of rivalry, both clubs wanted clearly to reflect their city. Here is the city’s coat of arms:

And what about those Bristols, I hear you shout. Bristol City, the Robins with a bright red breast and Bristol Rovers, “the Black Arabs”. I looked that up, and apparently when they were first founded, Rovers played in all black because they very much admired the Arabs rugby team who also played in all black. Here are the old badges of the two clubs:

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And here is the badge of the City of Bristol:

The idea even seems to have influenced Gloucester Rugby Club:
Next time, football and a bunch of animals.

21 Comments

Filed under Football, History, Wildlife and Nature

21 responses to ““Hilarity with Heraldry” (2)

  1. I’ve always been curious as to how they came up with the animals for a crest. For example, why the seahorses?

    • I think that the seahorses are there because Newcastle-on-Tyne is on the coast or perhaps there is a local industry based on seafood. Presumably fish and suchlike are all used for the same reason.
      Many animals are used to illustrate how brave the locals are, lions, wild bulls and so on. Other animals may have been, say, the last ones in England before they were hunted out….bears and wolves for example.
      Some animals may be from the exotic places that local army units have been to. This would include tigers from a posting in India, or the three lions of England after the English returned from the Crusades which were fought in the Holy Land, where there would have been lions in the Middle Ages.
      More subtle will be the bee and the ant which symbolise hard work and dedication. Napoleon had the bee as his emblem.
      Questions make me get my brain into gear, so don’t hesitate to ask again in future!

  2. Jan

    The first half of the last century was the high water mark of municipal heraldry. Any borough or city worth its salt had the civic coat of arms emblazoned on everything from the lamp standards posts to the parky’s cap. I bet Nottingham’s bus drivers wouldn’t mind sporting a badge like this.

    • Yes, you would think he was at least a Chief Inspector of Police or some other amazingly important job.
      My own prize for self glorification in a public office goes to the old German police constables you get in black and white pre-war films with the great big metal plate on their chests. I’ve often wondered what was written on them. I would presume nothing Hitlerian because they pre-date Adolf.

  3. Chris Waller

    As a now native of the Bristol area it amuses me that the city’s coat of arms still features a castle. The castle was demolished in 1656 on the orders of Oliver Cromwell. The only remnant of the castle was converted into a public convenience. Bristol Rovers are known locally as ‘The Gas’ from the days when their ground was next to the Eastville gas-works, though this latter might not be suitable for inclusion in a coat of arms.

    • I am still wondering about those Black Arabs, because to say that you play in black because you very much admire the Arabs rugby team who also play in all black, is basically evading the issue.
      I wonder if there is any connection with the slave trade, because the times in the nineteenth century are, very roughly, a fit. Bristol and Liverpool were the two big slavery ports. Were the black victims possibly sold on to English businessmen by Arabs, who have always been very keen on practising slavery?

  4. I spent most of my early life in/near Leicester who of course has the fox on their badge. I’m not sure of the origin, something to do with foxes roaming the ancient woodlands or Royal land. It is more likely the cunning way they always manage to avoid promotion! It more recently inspired a Michael Murpurgo book. ‘The fox and the Ghost King’ linking the foxes with the discovery of King Richard III in a car park in Leicester. For helping the king, he then granted the fox’s wish for Leicester to win the cup – one of sport’s most amazing achievements! A delightful story indeed!

    • I think there has always been a tradition of foxhunting in this area of the country which would go a long way to explaining the various badges, although there is a definite twist in the thinking behind it. As an emblem the emphasis is on the animal’s cleverness and cunning rather than as something to chase and kill.
      In football, they are the Foxes, but in rugby it’s Leicester Tigers. That is because, as I just looked up, there were soldiers of the Leicestershire Regiment in India from 1804-1823, 1837-1854, various years in the 1920s and finally 1942-1947. It’s no wonder that Leicester is the Curry Capital of England!

  5. Another fascinating read, John. Your brain amazes me by how it works. I do understand to a degree how one question can lead to another one …. and so on. The hunt continues …. (smile)

  6. Chris Waller

    A long shot here but I wonder if the term ‘Black Arabs’ might be a reference to the Berbers? The south coast of England was raided by Barbary pirates seeking slaves even until the late 17th century. I suspect there may also have been some trading between the Bristol slave traders and the Berbers. I doubt that slave traders were unduly burdened by ethical considerations. The Berbers, being Muslims, would commonly have been lumped together with others of that faith and collectively regarded as Arabs.

  7. A further piece of evidence to back your theory would have been Othello. I am by no means an expert but I do remember reading an article which said that Othello would not have been by any means black in the sense of, say, the West Indian cricket team, but that he would have been a North African, who probably would have looked like a European except for a skin colour as if he had a very dark suntan.

  8. Fascinating and all the badges are very nice.

  9. Heraldry is a fascinating topic. The State of Maryland flag is actually the coat of arms of the Calvert family whio started the colony way back when. it was a refuge for Catholic families at a time they were not welcomed in England.

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